Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Matheson Cove: In the Shadow of the Devil's Post Office

Mr. Steve Oakley, Director of the Union County Historical Society Museum in the majestic, restored old courthouse on the square in Blairsville gave Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D., my telephone number. She called me. The first time we talked, after precursory introductions, we were like old friends who had been reconnected after years of separation, although we have not yet met each other in person.

The tie that binds Eva Nell and me is a common love for and appreciation of history. And some common family roots. But more about the shared family roots later. The intention of today's column is to introduce the reading public to Dr. Wike's book published in 2006 with the inviting title of The Matheson Cove: In the Shadow of the Devil's Post Office. Consider this a review of the book, and even with my words of commendation, I cannot do justice to Dr. Wike's book published by Tennessee Valley Publishing, PO Box 52527, Knoxville, TN 37950-2527 (The publisher may be reached online at The hardbound book may be purchased from the publisher or from the author, Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph. D., 109 Oklahoma Ave., Oakridge, TN 37830-8629 for $25 + $4 S&H [$29] Copies are available at The Book Nook in Blairsville and at Phillips & Lloyd Book Shop on the Square, Hayesville, NC.)

Eva Nell Mull Wike

This is a book of history, a book of remembrance, a book of family solidarity in a changing era, and a book about a place, almost magical, yet real and inviting.

Matheson Cove is a real place, a valley overshadowed by the Shewbird Mountain. The cove is located near Hayesville, N.C., and was the place where Eva Nell grew up in a hardworking family with not many of this world's goods but an abundance of love and values.

The Devil's Post Office was a cave in the Shewbird Mountain, an off-limits place where Eva Nell and her sisters longed to explore but which was forbidden by their parents. On Sunday afternoons, some of the more daring teenagers living near the Shewbird Mountain would venture up to the Devil's Post Office, take letters they had written during the week, and deliver them to crevices in the deepest recesses of the cave. What happened to the letters was a matter of legend as well, for the missives were never seen again. As Dr. Mull writes, "there is not a dead letter box in that post office!"

Shewbird Mountain got its name from an old Cherokee Indian by that name who hid out in the cave to avoid the trek to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears.

Matheson Cove got its name from the early Matheson settlers who left the highlands of Scotland and migrated to the United States, claiming 300 acres in North Carolina in present-day Clay County. Dr. Wike tells the story of their settlement and how Dallas Matheson was ahead of his time in cultivating peach, apple and chestnut trees in the Cove. The heart of the book is about the ancestors of Eva Nell Mull Wike, the author, both on the Wimpey and the Mull sides of the family.

Eva Nell heard fascinating stories of her maternal great, great grandmother, Matilda "Minny" Little, a fullblooded Cherokee maiden, who hid in a cave in the region of Union County, Ga., called Track Rock. Thus Minny escaped being sent on the Trail of Tears in 1838. The young girl was afraid but determined. Her later life proved the true mettle of this Cherokee lady.
Minny Little married Asa Thomason on January 13, 1857 and they were parents of the author's grandmother, Lula Bell Jane Thomason who married William Isaac Wimpey. And from these came her mother, Martha Jane Wimpey who married her father, Joseph David Mull.

The Mull family and their ancestors had likewise settled in Matheson Cove. And so the story continues, page after interesting page, to recount ways of making a living, rearing large families, dealing with serious illnesses, accidents, deaths, and grief. Always there is that stalwart will to keep pressing on, to provide better opportunities for the next generation than the parents themselves experienced.

The book is well illustrated by the author's husband, James Wike, an artist who has the ability to add interest to the true story by his drawings and enhancement of old photographs. The book is a treasure of history and memoirs, of hardships and change.

Matheson Cove and Shewbird Mountain, as well as the Devil's Post Office, have now been ravaged by modern twins called development and change. As Jack Douglas Matheson states in his poem which Dr.Wike includes in her book, "I've felt a lot of memories/ In that old mountain's face./It breaks my heart to see it go,/And lose all its grace."

Dr. Eva Nell Mull Wike has captured much of the grace and way of life of the Matheson Cove. Get a copy of the book. You will be enthralled by its pages, written by one who truly loves the place. It is fortunate for readers that she stored away memories and recorded them for posterity. We hope we will experience more books from this retired mathematics teacher turned author as she explores other stories of beloved ancestors who paved the way for us all to have a better life.

(Note: Dr. Wike is available to speak to groups or to have book signings. Anyone interested in scheduling her as a speaker may contact her at 865-482-2545.)

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 17, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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